Photo, from left to right: Katrina Wilcox, Kerianne Chant, Quinlan Mann
The Conservation and Research department at Assiniboine Park Zoo strives to support the next generation of conservation scientists. One of the ways we do this is by partnering with universities to mentor undergraduate and graduate students while they collaborate with us to conduct research at the Zoo. Over the past year, we supervised three University of Winnipeg honour’s thesis students, each of whom successfully defended their research in April! Here’s a glimpse at who they are and what they were studying.
Kerianne studied the personalities of the polar bears who live at Assiniboine Park Zoo. Kerianne was interested in determining whether individual differences in polar bears can be accurately measured using the human five-factor model of personality assessment. Through a personality questionnaire that was filled out for each of the bears by their animal care team, Kerianne was able to determine that this questionnaire was a reliable and repeatable method for assessing polar bear personalities. These results are helping the animal care team better manage and provide individualized care for the polar bears at our Zoo.
Katrina studied how different birds are affected by window collisions at Assiniboine Park and Zoo. Collision with windows is one of the biggest threats to birds, especially in the spring and fall migration seasons as many birds are travelling long distances through urban areas. Katrina found that birds that eat seeds and insects on the ground and in tree branches are more likely to hit windows. These results are helping the Conservation and Research team at the Zoo understand where window mitigation is most needed to reduce bird-window collisions.
Quin studied the use of acoustic recording units to help monitor chimney swifts using the artificial chimney at Assiniboine Park Zoo. Chimney swifts are a threatened species of bird in Manitoba and to help monitor their populations, we are using new technology to track their presence and behaviour. Using audio recording units inside the tower, Quin was able to determine the number of entrances and exits that the chimney swifts made in different weather conditions. Quin found that chimney swift activity was negatively linked to rain, possibly due to less available prey and more difficult flight conditions. These results are helpful as we now know that it is possible to monitor this species using audio recording devices and that it is important to factor in weather conditions during future monitoring efforts.